Author Archives: Howie

100,000 Homes in the Times

Sometime in June, the 100,000 Homes Campaign — an initiative launched four years ago to help communities around the country place 100,000 chronically homeless people into permanent supportive housing — expects to announce that it has reached its goal…

The campaign … has helped to shift the way homeless organizations and agencies around the country set goals, measure progress, prioritize individuals and coordinate their efforts to house people living on the streets.

– from The Push to End Chronic Homelessness Is Working by David Bornstein

Congratulations to Community Solutions, the national 100,000 Homes Campaign, and all the local campaigns (including our own here in KC!) on nearly reaching the campaign’s goal, and on another high-profile media piece!

What’s next for the local campaign?

  • Integrating our housing placement team and outreach team meetings into the emerging Greater Kansas City coordinated housing system
  • Determining local interest in Community Solutions’ next project, Zero: 2016
  • Continue providing and improving permanent housing options for people experiencing homelessness in KC!

You can get involved, especially if you are a permanent housing or rapid re-housing provider, whether you use MAACLink or not; if you’re interested, would you contact us?

Jackson and Wyandotte County Point-In-Time Data Complete

Last Friday the Jackson County, MO and Wyandotte County, KS Continua of Care reached an important milestone on their way to submitting Point-In-Time (PIT) count data to HUD.  After many weeks of data entry (thanks, volunteers!) and MAACLink development, I created the master data sets using the new MAACLink 100,000 Homes report and turned them over to the respective COCs.

Of course we’ll use this data to complete the PIT count, but because we used OrgCode‘s VI-SPDAT as our survey tool there’s much more we can do.  We can:

  • Assess the acuity (i.e. depth of need) of people experiencing homelessness individually, by sub-population, and for the entire community
  • Track our follow-up with clients, including when they are re-housed
  • Create much more meaningful, detailed, and actionable reports to the community

The 100,000 Homes workflow and report are now available to all MAACLink users who want to take advantage of it.  100,000 Homes Assessments – essentially the VI-SPDAT plus a few local questions – can be added to any client profile.  The report returns all data fields from the assessment back in a .CSV client grid for sorting, reporting, and follow-up.  Contact me if you would like further information about how to use this feature in MAACLink.

What could you do, if you knew every person experiencing homelessness in your community by name and depth of need?

Ending Homelessness in Utah by Housing People

Following up on my previous post about the million dollars spent not housing Murray, here’s an article on what Utah is doing to end homelessness.  One key finding:

In 2005, Utah figured out that the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for homeless people was about $16,670 per person, compared to $11,000 to provide each homeless person with an apartment and a social worker. So, the state began giving away apartments, with no strings attached.

We have every reason to believe these findings hold true nation-wide.  For example, locally in Kansas City, ReDiscover’s hospital diversion program has saved approximately $13.7 million in medical costs with an $800,000 up-front investment in just 18 months.  The state of Missouri is implementing it state-wide, and it’s easy to understand why, whether your motivation is helping people, saving money, or both.

Are these articles true to your experience?  And if so, what data would help your community move toward ending homelessness by housing people first?

For Nine Ambulance Trips, We Can House Someone Safely

My sister has been reading Malcolm Gladwell, chanced across his piece on Million-Dollar Murray, and asked me if it rang true to my experiences with homeless services in Kansas City.  In it, he argues that “homeless may be easier to solve than to manage.” I’d add “more humane” and “more affordable” to that, and I think he’d agree.

“We came up with three names that were some of our chronic inebriates in the downtown area, that got arrested the most often … One of the guys had been in jail previously, so he’d only been on the streets for six months. In those six months, he had accumulated a bill of a hundred thousand dollars—and that’s at the smaller of the two hospitals near downtown Reno. It’s pretty reasonable to assume that the other hospital had an even larger bill… [This person] was Murray Barr, and Johns and O’Bryan realized that if you totted up all his hospital bills for the ten years that he had been on the streets—as well as substance-abuse-treatment costs, doctors’ fees, and other expenses—Murray Barr probably ran up a medical bill as large as anyone in the state of Nevada.

“It cost us one million dollars not to do something about Murray,” O’Bryan said.

A trusted source here locally tells me that they have a client who called the ambulance 126 times in 2012.  At $700 per call, that’s $88,200 in services in one year before adding any medical treatment or other emergency services.  In comparison, a conservative estimate of the cost of one unit of permanent supportive housing is $6,500 per year.  That’s not to say that a person in supportive housing won’t ever need an ambulance, but they certainly won’t need one every third day.

Why do we use our resources this way?  As human beings, why aren’t we insisting on safe, appropriate housing for everyone?  As taxpayers, why aren’t we demanding more permanent supportive housing?  Gladwell says it’s because the answers don’t conform to our moral intuitions.

Power-law solutions [ED: Power law at Wikipedia] have little appeal to the right, because they involve special treatment for people who do not deserve special treatment; and they have little appeal to the left, because their emphasis on efficiency over fairness suggests the cold number-crunching of Chicago-school cost-benefit analysis … In Denver, John Hickenlooper, the city’s enormously popular mayor, has worked on the homelessness issue tirelessly during the past couple of years … He has commissioned studies to show what a drain on the city’s resources the homeless population has become. But, he says, “there are still people who stop me going into the supermarket and say, ‘I can’t believe you’re going to help those homeless people, those bums.’”

So, how do we frame developing permanent supportive housing units to voters, funders, and elected officials?

2013 AHAR Shows Decreases in Chronic and Veteran Homelessness

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) One CPD Resource Exchange email list recently sent a message summarizing HUD’s 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.  This report contains some outstanding news; measurable, sustained decreases in chronic and veteran homelessness!  (Plus, it has occurred in spite of our ongoing recession!)

Based on data reported by more than 3,000 cities and counties, last January’s one-night estimate reveals a 24 percent drop in homelessness among Veterans and a 16 percent reduction among individuals experiencing long-term or chronic homelessness since 2010. HUD’s estimate also found the largest decline in the number of persons in families experiencing homelessness since the Department began measuring homelessness in a standard manner in 2005…

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said this:

“If we’re going to end homelessness as we know it, we need a continued bipartisan commitment from Congress to break the cycle trapping our most vulnerable citizens between living in a shelter or a life on the streets. I understand these are tough budget times but these are proven strategies that are making a real difference. We simply can’t balance our budget on the backs of those living on the margins.”

This progress has occurred in the context of the Obama administration’s Opening Doors program, a cross-department road map shared among 19 federal agencies aimed at ending veteran homelessness by 2015 and child, youth, and family homelessness by 2020.  The reduction in homelessness is primarily attributed to the HUD-VASH voucher program, and expanded permanent supportive housing programs in local communities.

Great news like this reminds me that we know how to end homelessness (house people!  And support them in maintaining their housing!), and that once you factor in emergency services (police, ambulance, ER, etc.) and the costs of homelessness (employability, social connections, etc.) we can do it for something like the same amount we spend now.  Personally, I’d be happy to pay a bit more in taxes if I was confident it would result in more people being housed, but my point is that it’s probably not even necessary; we just need to allocate our resources differently, perhaps shifting some of the savings on emergency services into permanent housing programs.

News like this reminds me that there is no moral or practical reason why any of our neighbors need to continue experiencing homelessness.  Only a bias toward the status quo stands between us and a housing system that works for everyone.

News like this gives me a sense of urgency.  Those who will suffer homelessness tonight stuffer needlessly!  What can we do, today, to help create a better housing system?

Is there any way I can help you in that work?

Can you feel it?